Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (E-ACAM)
What is E-ACAM?
The Alternative Connect America Cost Model (ACAM) program was launched in 2016 and provided funding to incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) that voluntarily elected to receive financial support to upgrade service to speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. The Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (E-ACAM) program launched in August 2023, raising the target speed to 100/20 Mbps and providing additional funding to reflect the higher speed requirements. Both of these programs are administered directly by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and funding does not pass through MCA.
In September, three eligible providers in Maine (TDS Telecommunications, LCI/Tidewater, and GoNetSpeed), elected the E-ACAM offer, bringing an additional $100 million in new funding to provide service to approximately 12,000 locations across the state.
This is a collective win for the State of Maine and will allow MCA to prioritize funding from the All-In and BEAD programs to other areas to maximize universal broadband coverage across the state. The E-ACAM program also directly complements the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.
Context & Timeline of E-ACAM Elections in Maine
Because the E-ACAM program, MCA All-In Programs funded by the Capital Projects Fund (CPF), and the upcoming BEAD program are all federally-funded grant programs, providers who elected into E-ACAM funding would no longer be eligible for additional federal funding for those specific locations in Maine. For MCA, this will most likely impact Reach Me Line Extension awards to TDS Telecom, GoNetSpeed, and LCI/Tidewater.
In each of these E-ACAM areas, unserved locations identified through the Reach Me program will be covered by the E-ACAM program. Over the past two months, MCA has (and will continue to) work with providers and communities to evaluate the potential outcomes of these elections and how they will change the needs of the state.
Below is a timeline of E-ACAM announcements and elections, CPF-funded MCA projects potentially impacted by E-ACAM, and BEAD Program planning efforts working concurrently with E-ACAM.
April 24, 2023: The MCA Board approves Reach Me Line Extension Awards awards for nine internet service providers to locations across Maine.
June - October 2023: MCA works with awarded Reach Me providers to develop new grant contracts, including adopting agreements for evolving US Department of Treasury Guidance.
June 23, 2023: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (E-ACAM) program as a voluntary path for supporting 100/20 Mbps broadband deployment throughout the rural areas served by carriers currently receiving ACAM support and in areas served by legacy rate-of-return support recipients.
August 30, 2023: The FCC announced offers of E-ACAM on a state-by-state basis to existing ACAM carriers and further guidance regarding E-ACAM processes and procedures.
August 31, 2023: MCA emailed all eligible providers in Maine to gather information about current planned and proposed networks based on E-ACAM options in an effort to plan for current MCA All-In Programs and future BEAD-funded MCA projects.
September 11-15: MCA engaged in direct conversations with providers to ascertain the likelihood of their participation in E-ACAM, and to provide additional information about potential implications that E-ACAM election would have on other MCA grants (such as Reach Me Line Extensions).
September 29, 2023: The deadline for providers to elect E-ACAM funding.
October 4, 2023: The FCC announced carriers that have accepted E-ACAM offers, including TDS, LCI/Tidewater, and GoNetSpeed in Maine.
October 5, 2023 - present: MCA is conducting outreach and continues to communicate with providers and communities to gain a clearer understanding of which locations will be served by E-ACAM funding, and the best path to ensure universal coverage in those areas.
E-ACAM Elected Providers in Maine & Potential Impacts on MCA Grants
TDS proactively engaged in a conversation with MCA early in their E-ACAM decision-making process to understand the potential impacts of this election on their previous MCA Reach Me Line Extension grant. They notified MCA shortly after the FCC deadline that they would be electing E-ACAM for their study areas and acknowledged that this would render their previous award duplicative as these locations will be served through the E-ACAM program.
GoNetSpeed engaged in several conversations with MCA prior to and shortly after they elected E-ACAM for their study area in Maine. MCA is continuing to work with GoNetSpeed to understand whether a portion of their Reach Me Award can still be allocated for those locations outside their study area, and confirming that all other locations will be served through the E-ACAM program.
LCI/Tidewater engaged in one conversation with MCA prior to their E-ACAM election, and has shared additional information after this decision. MCA is continuing to work with LCI/Tidewater and the potentially impacted communities to understand how their Reach Me Award and E-ACAM election overlap, and confirming how all locations will be served through the E-ACAM program.